US DOE, Air Force to research jet fuel emissions

Units of the US Department of Energy and the US Air Force signed an agreement Tuesday to jointly research the sulfur content of jet fuels in a 5-year program to reduce emissions from advanced propulsion systems.

Units of the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Air Force will collaborate on a 5-year program to develop clean aviation fuels, fuel additives and lubricants, officials said Tuesday.

Participants in that joint study to reduce emissions from advanced propulsion systems include the US Air Force Research Laboratory and the Office of Fuels and Energy Efficiency, part of DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). That cost-shared effort supports DOE's Ultra-Clean Transportation Fuels Initiative, managed by NETL.

It's part of a larger energy department initiative that could commit $100 million or more over 5 years to provide the nation with affordable, clean transportation fuels from petroleum, natural gas, coal, and other energy resources (OGJ Online, Oct. 3, 2000). These fuels will allow cars, ships, and aircraft to achieve significantly lower pollutant emissions, said the DOE. The technologies being pursued are expected to create a cleaner environment and more options to lessen the demand for imported oil.

Researchers will initially study the chemical structure of sulfur compounds and the resultant emissions. They plan to selectively remove sulfur compounds from fuel by using chromatography or complexing agents to break up those compounds. They will also focus on understanding how sulfur compounds in fuels, particularly jet fuels, affect engines and emission control systems, said John Winslow, NETL's product manager for transportation fuels and chemicals.

"Since the Environmental Protection Agency's likelihood of mandating reduced levels of sulfur in diesel and gasoline may have a cascading impact on sulfur concentrations in jet fuels, we want to be ready," Winslow said. "Understanding the role sulfur compounds play in engine performance will assist the development of ultra-clean fuels to improve performance of these engines and lessen the environmental impact caused by military and commercial aircraft."

Researchers will also look at the contribution which sulfur makes to the formation of varnishes on metal surfaces, particularly under heat stress. Ultimately, the researchers will attempt to remove the surface deposits by using methods developed by NETL. Solving these problems will allow new technologies to dramatically reduce both the sulfur content of fuels and the impact of the remaining sulfur on aircraft system performance and emissions, said a statement.

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